The Story of a Volunteer
How I started volunteering
I started volunteering at the Market Lane Day Centre in Shepherd’s Bush in October 2008. I had been working in office based jobs in the City and was tired of doing jobs which offered some financial rewards but didn’t appear to give much more. I had worked as a teacher after university, and was looking to work with people again instead of a computer!
What I did as a volunteer
My day to day tasks were pretty straightforward – letting people in and out of the centre, asking people to sign in to the service, serving teas and coffees, and helping people to access showers and washing machines.
Along the way though, I began to get a real insight into people’s lives – why they were homeless, what they needed to get themselves back into accommodation and often into work, and what was holding them back. The focus definitely seemed to be on enabling people to do things they could do for themselves, rather than encouraging dependency on any system or service.
I also picked up knowledge of the facilities and organisations in Hammersmith and Fulham that cater for people getting back into work, accessing medical help, or seeking counselling and support. I also began to be able to help with basic advice around benefits and housing options.
What I gained from volunteering
Volunteering helped me in a number of ways:
- gave me lots of understanding of the services out there for the people in the community
- gave me valuable insight into working in the charity sector, and it gave me the practical skills I needed to start a career.
I learnt many things that would have been useful for lots of different types of work
- listening to and trying to reconcile alternate points of view
- promoting and running events
- organising myself to sometimes do a million things at once!
What I'm doing now
After 6 months of part-time volunteering, I successfully applied for a traineeship at Broadway, working in one of their Shepherds Bush based hostels. Due to the time I spent at the Centre, and also due to other transferable skills I had demonstrated from past jobs, I was offered a post. 9 months later and I am working as a full-time project worker for Broadway, and am continuing to enjoy supporting and enabling some of the most vulnerable people in our society.